Discussions of Book of Mormon issues and evidences, plus other topics related to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Not That Simple: Book of Mormon Geography and Dating

Those with interest in either supporting or attacking the Book of Mormon using science can make a host of unintentional errors. Sometimes the errors come from misreading or misapplying the text, other times from improper understanding of complex scientific issues or other aspects of scholarship. We all like easy answers, especially ones that prove we are right, but life is often more complicated than that.

Instructive lessons about the complexities of applying science and scholarship to the Book of Mormon come from the healthy debate occurring in the LDS community on Book of Mormon geography. In particular, look at Kirk Magleby's instructive "Implications of Radiocarbon Dating for the Credibility of the Book of Mormon and the Validity of Book of Mormon Geography Models." This is a rebuttal of arguments made by Ted Dee Stoddard about radiocarbon dating in support of the Book of Mormon. Brother Stoddard has provided many valuable insights into the Book of Mormon over the years. In this case, though, there appear to be some gaps requiring revision in the approach, just as there have been major gaps in my own thinking over the years, including some of my own technical and other publications, not to mention an occasional visionary patent that looks sorely misguided today. Magleby concludes by stating that "Ted Stoddard tries to argue that C-14 dating authenticates the Grijalva-Sidon correlation and invalidates the Usumacinta-Sidon theory. It is not that simple." It rarely is.

From DNA and Book of Mormon population studies to details of geography or even the "simple" area of Arabian Peninsula locations, it's rarely a simple matter where one line of reasoning or one simple "fact" wins the day. Many details must be considered and competence in multiple fields needs to be tapped. We've come a long way, but there's still much to figure out.

Yes, of course, I am writing this with the carefully obtained witness (in other words, BIAS) that the Book of Mormon is an authentic ancient book with miraculous origins, now seeking to better understand what it means and what it is. I am not trying to use science to determine if an angel brought Joseph Smith to the golden plates he translated with the power of God. "No pre-Columbian horses, no Moroni" - I can win that argument in a flash with the simplest logic and a single factoid of evidence - or I can explore the much more complex issue of what the text says and what I should expect to find scientifically based on it.

Kudos to the Book of Mormon Archeology Forum for sharing the writings from these authors.


Dave said...

Oh, that kind of dating. Makes a little more sense now.

Jeff Lindsay said...

Right. Don't date geographers. Especially married ones.

Sam said...

Kirk's article is interesting, but mostly over my head. The most exciting thing I got out of it was the link to his blog: http://bookofmormonresources.blogspot.com/. His posts will keep me busy for a long time!